See that girl up there? That's Leah. This is her with her Ukrainian dance group at a competition when she was about 15. We all danced, but Leah is our favourite one to
reminisce about make fun of. Was Leah good at Ukrainian dancing? Heck no. Is she good at Ukrainian cooking? You better believe it.
We are Ukrainian, through and through. Our Mom's parents immigrated to Canada just a few months before she was born. She didn't even speak English until she started elementary school. We grew up with a huge Ukrainian influence in our home, which is pretty much translated into food. Our favourite of which is Varenyky (or perogies, as you probably know them).
Last week, Jessica was visiting Leah in Seattle and we realized that because of the miles between us, we had never (as adults) actually made them together. With the incoming snowstorm we knew we would be stuck in the house, so the timing seemed perfect.
This recipe will yield about 200 perogies. Just to give you an idea, if you are making dinner for 4 people, you will probably want about 30.
- 5 pounds of russet potatoes
- 1 big onion
- 1/2 cup butter, divided
- 4 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 2 tsp salt
*These are the ingredients for ONE batch of dough- if you are making this much filling, you will need about 3 batches, but don't make them all at once.
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup potato water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tsp salt
Peel and quarter your potatoes, and boil just like you would if you were making mashed potatoes.
Chop up your onion and sautee it in 1/4 cup of the butter, until it's transluscent.
When your potatoes are soft, drain them, but KEEP the water! The easiest way is to put your colander into a stainless steel bowl, like this.
Add the cheddar cheese, sauteed onions, 1/4 cup of butter, and salt. Put a lid on and let it sit for 5-10 minutes to let the cheese and butter melt. Take the lid off and mash away. We like to start with a potato masher until it's all mushy, and then take a hand-held mixer to it. Try to resist the urge to just eat the filling by itself. Ok, you can sneak just a bit.
Now is when you make the dough. You need to do it in 3 batches for a few reasons. It's a somewhat stiff dough. so if you make it all at once, it will be too hard by the time you get to the end of it. Also, you want the dough warm when you work with it (which it will be from the potato water).
Put the flour, oil, salt, and reserved potato water in a large bowl, and knead with your hands. Work until you form a large ball.
Roll out your dough with a rolling pin until it's about this thick.
Using a biscut cutter (or a glass, if you don't have a biscut cutter), make circles.
Here's where it gets fun. Spoon about 1 tbsp worth of filling into the middle of a dough circle.
Close the circle into a half-moon shape and pinch along the edges. And I mean really pinch. You don't want it to open when it's cooking.
Have a cookie sheet ready and sprinkled with flour. Put the finished perogies on the sheet. If you're planning to freeze and save your perogies, stick the cookie sheet right into the freezer once the cookie sheet is full.
Once frozen, put into a large ziplock freezer bag until you're ready to cook them, unless you're going to eat them right away.
Get some salted water at a good boil. Put in your perogies, one by one (they splash!). You will know they're ready when they float at the top. Let them float for about 1 minute before taking them out. You can use a colander or a slotted spoon. Serve with a dollop or sour cream and fried onions.
Although not traditional, our favourite way is to fry them (in more butter, of course) after they have been boiled. But you really can't lose either way.
-Jessica and Leah